Arsenal: Transfers Aside, 5 Gunners Who Must Up the Ante in 2012-13

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Arsenal: Transfers Aside, 5 Gunners Who Must Up the Ante in 2012-13
Paul Gilham/Getty Images

All the talk on Arsenal these days surrounds the transfer of players in and out of the club. And, I suppose, that is but natural.

Fans want new players to come in to freshen things up and make the team stronger. At the same time, we'd like the club to get rid of the so called "dead wood" to free up some places in the squad, lighten the wage bill and bring in some money to spend on the aforementioned new signings.

Can't argue with that. We'd all like the team to get better year on year.

However, in the midst of all this transfer hullabaloo, one important aspect is often underplayed—the performance of the existing squad members.

Us fans are an emotional bunch—in the heat of close-season postmortem, we heap blame on the manager, the CEO, the owner, the referees, other fans, the press and even our opponents, but we often tend to spare the rod with the players we idolize. Not surprising, but at the same time, not perfectly fair.

Some of us have our favorite whipping boys, who we tend to blame for everything that goes wrong, even when they don't play—Chamakh and Park, for example. But for the most part, we do not objectively analyze each individual's performance to see how they could contribute better.

If we assess the performances of Arsenal's squad last season, the only players who, in my opinion, would emerge with their heads held high are Robin Van Persie, Wojciech Szczesny, Laurent Koscielny, Bacary Sagna, Alex Song and Mikel Arteta.

Thomas Vermaelen, Theo Walcott and Tomas Rosicky were just behind this group due to inconsistencies in their performances, while the rest do not make the cut for a variety of reasons, injury included.

Here are five players who should be key members of Arsenal's 2012-13 squad, but who, at the same time, need to raise their game by a couple of notches to take the team's performances to the next level.

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